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By Alsike


When Frank finally notices that his wife doesn't love him, his heart doesn't break, but his mind does. Natalia was supposed to be the good woman. She was the one who never lied, who smiled when ever he made her happy, who was the perfect wife and mother: doting, pious, and a good, honest cook, even though she wasn't a Cooper.

But Rafe was still in prison. And he had been there on the day Emma had taken her old bus home and waited for Natalia on the porch. He had seen the shock on her face, her body freeze, and the way she glanced up, hope in her eyes, to the empty space behind Emma, as if she expected someone who wasn't there.

The Sunday after the wedding, Natalia came home from church early. She looked more worn than before, not happy or elated like he had expected her to. The next weekend he offered to go with her. But she shook her head, saying she wasn't going this week. She hadn't been back since. There was a rumor going around town that Natalia had had a fight with god.

When Olivia's generous honeymoon leave came to an end, and Natalia was preparing to return to work, he had asked her why. She didn't have to work now. He was the provider. If she wanted to feel useful she could help out at Company. Natalia just looked confused and almost afraid. "You don't have to work," he repeated. She just shook her head, and shook it, and shook it, like trying to rid herself of a particularly pesky fly. "I have to go to work," was all she said, and she disappeared.

Natalia was tired every night after work. She said she didn't feel like cooking, so they ate at Company often. But he liked those nights, because she was always a little happier, a little more animated as she told stories of what had happened that day, what funny things Olivia had done, how shocked she had been when Olivia had dropped another, more difficult project on her desk and expected her to handle it with only the barest of input. At first Frank hadn't understood. "She's working you too hard," he said. Because it was Olivia, and she used people. But Natalia had blinked and then smiled shyly. "Olivia," she said, and it was in a tone of voice that Frank had never heard before, "Olivia believes that I can do anything. It makes me… it makes me so happy to know that she has faith in me. And when I complete her proposals, because she never lets me fail, I have more faith in myself."

Frank liked to believe that he was a forgiving person, but there were some things you don't forget. Shelling out for flowers, champagne and romance for a woman who sleeps with your father is one of those things. He was angry with her for leading his father on, too, of course, but that was just one of the hundred despicable things Olivia had done. When it's personal, you don't forget it.

So when he had gone out looking for Natalia one afternoon, hoping to surprise her with a picnic and champagne, and he had found her in the park, leaning on the railing overlooking the ducks, and gazing at Olivia Spencer, who was talking with her hands and being silly, making up voices for the ducks, with a look in her eyes that Frank could only call love, he had a right to believe that the world had shattered in two.

Olivia didn't matter. He knew her for the succubus she was. But Natalia, the perfect woman, he realized had been lying to him from the very start.

"How long?" He asked her, his fingers sinking deep into the flesh of her arms, "How long have you been… been fucking her?"

There was a flash of guilt before the fear and denials. And when his fist made contact with her eye he felt only the glory of righteousness.

When Natalia walked into the office that day, Olivia knew. She knew the marks, knew the wide-eyed look of disbelief, and she knew that if she had her gun right now, Frank wouldn't live to see another morning. But she had been preparing for this day since before the wedding. She had warned Frank, that if he hurt her, he would pay the price. She dialed the phone. "Start it," she said quietly, "The Cooper protocol."

She reached out and gathered Natalia in her arms and let her cry.

The divorce hearing had been angry and acrimonious. Frank knew whom it was who had finally tipped off IAB to all his little maneuverings and kickbacks for the people he thought needed a favor. He screamed at them, Natalia covering her black eye and her tears, and Olivia, standing like a bodyguard, like a knight, glaring daggers of ice at him. He told the entire audience that he knew they were fucking like rabbits, like whores, that he had seen them on Olivia's desk, Natalia's legs hooked around her waist, Olivia leaning over her, pushing, thrusting into her.

Olivia sued him for slander.

She won.

Frank left town. But he found Natalia before he went, caught her the moment she was alone. He asked her, "was this what you wanted?" And she looked at him, unbroken, her eyes harder, fierier, more alive than he had seen them since the day she had accepted his engagement. And he realized that she had never looked at him like that before, never looked at him with anything but condescending boredom, and he thought he understood what it felt like to be Phillip, maybe even to be Olivia. If they can't look at you like that because they love you, make them look at you that way because they hate you.

"I don't believe in vengeance," she said. And Frank smiled, because that was a lie.

The End

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